Sealing the deal in Iqaluit
We just got back from a sunny week in Turks & Caicos
While we were there, we were chatting with a super-friendly family from Boston. The dad was proud of how much he knew about Canada, saying that he now knew 5 Canadians (us plus one more) and that he never met one he didn’t like. Well, even if he had known 500 Canadians, that statement would still be true, am I right??
Anyway, one of the things he was proud of was that he had taken a Canadian politics course and could name all of our provinces and territories. I didn’t want to be a jerk and challenge him on it, but in my head I thought *bet you can’t, because there’s a relatively new one and even Canadians of a certain age might get stuck on knowing it*.
By coincidence, at the very moment that I was being a skeptical jerk in my head (while also drinking a dirty banana, I’m nothing if not a multitasker) my friend Lysane happened to be emailing me food pictures for a post I had bugged her about on the very subject of the newest frosty territory — Nunavut.
Nunavut came about in 1999 after years of planning, negotiations, and an overwhelmingly positive NWT vote responding to Inuit land claims. It has a population of just over 30,000 people and a geographic area similar to that of Western Europe. If it were a country it would rank 15th in terms of geographic size, but it only has a population density of 0.015 persons per square kilometre, which is one of the lowest densities in the world. Its capitol is Iqaluit, which I have to keep re-typing because the Inuit didn’t put a “u” after the “q” and I kind of love that because it makes them badasses in my mind, at least linguistically, even though Inuktitut has no reason to be anything like English. As an aside, did you know that 75% of people living in Nunavut speak Inuktitut as their mother tongue? Even then, though, there are many dialects. Check out these differences in words as common as “no” and “thank you.”
no thank you
Inuinnaqtun imannaq quana
Nattiliŋmiut iiqi qujanaqqutit
Kivallirmiut nauk ma’na
Aggurmiut aakka qujannamiik
Uqqurmiut aagga nakurmiik
Lysane is a Native-rights lawyer (Mohawk herself) and we’ve been friends since before I knew about dirty bananas and was instead drinking Labatt Ice in Montreal, circa 1993. She recently travelled to Iqaluit for work (well, not THAT recently, as I’m guessing it’s snowier there now) and came back with some beautiful pictures,
some stories of insane food prices, (they’re not all investment bankers, right? How do they eat??)
Love that generous $2.27 subsidy. Oh, and she came back with seal.
Well not that one, actually. And I’m not even going to insert a picture of a live one because they are awfully cute. But cuteness should not be a detractor from deliciousness, in my mind. Ugliness should not make an animal more fair game. And don’t worry, they don’t hunt the baby ones. According to this interesting article about eating seal meat, the biggest problem many animal rights folks have with the hunt is when they’re killed for pelts and the rest of the animal is tossed away, or when they’re killed too young. They’re not endangered, and if you’re paying $23 for chicken burgers a snack of seal here and there would likely be a welcome belly filler.
(And if you still don’t love the idea of the hunt, keep reading. I have a feeling that seal meat won’t be taking over as North America’s catch-of-the-day anytime soon)
So Lysane got her flippers on a flipper. And I was jealous, of course. A dangerous food I couldn’t buy in a store? If the girl didn’t live 500km away you can bet I would have planted myself on her front porch barking and clapping for a morsel. I may just go to vegan hell for that joke. In vegan hell they mostly serve lentils. But that’s what they serve in vegan heaven too. What are you gonna do.
Anyway, Lysane did all the right things. She marinated the flipper in wine. She dredged it in flour. She slow-cooked it, preparing for the perfect stew.
And it stunk. Smelled super fishy. She ate the meat, which was tender, she said, but she had to pitch the broth which was far too fishy.
“I didn’t know it was just the flippers I was getting,” she said. [Hey, look at me, quoting — please call me right honourable food journalist from now on]. “I would have much preferred getting something more like a roast. The flipper didn’t have a ton of meat on it. My big error though was leaving the seal blubber thinking it would be like other fats and it would give the broth flavoring and keep the meat tender. It’s way too much like fish oil than regular mammal fat.”
Lysane was quick to mention that she didn’t want to offend people who enjoy seal meat, saying that she was the one who had probably prepared it in the wrong way. After reading that seal meat article, though, I learned that seal oil goes bad so quickly that it’s often eaten raw. I’m thinking that unless you really know what you’re doing, having someone prepare it for you very fresh is the best way to go.
Seal sushi anyone?
So there you go. When I started this blog I imagined writing about creative culinary experiences, and Lysane’s Iqaluit adventure definitely fits the bill, even though it didn’t have a very happy ending. If I know her well enough, though, I’m guessing that if anyone ever offers to share some again she’ll be all over it, and I can’t wait to hear about seal-take-2.
Hey, and speaking about imagining writing about creative culinary experiences, would you believe that someone offered me a beaver leg to cook for you two weeks ago? Still deciding if I’m happy that I’m now known as the dangerous food girl…